TWELVE schools converge at Nyamhunga High School in Mashonaland Central tomorrow morning for this year’s national finals of the Stella Tea/National Association of Secondary School Heads (NASH) Under-17 netball tournament, but it is Masvingo Province who are favourites to once again provide the title winners.
Tournament sponsors Tanganda Tea Company — who are the country’s largest tea growers — poured in $60 000 for this year’s edition, up from $55 000 they put into the tourney last year.
Traditional giants in schools netball all made it to the national finals, an event which will be used to select the team that will represent the country at the Confederation of Schools Sport Associations of Southern Africa (Cossasa) Games to be held in Zambia later next month.
Two-time champions Pamushana High School will lead the cast of schools heading for Mashonaland Central tomorrow, and the Masvingo Province representative will arrive at Nyamhunga as huge favourites after their exploits at last year’s national finals in Plumtree.
Pamushana humiliated Chifamba High 30-9 in the final match to successfully defend the title they had won in 2012, and their victory also ensured the title remained in the province after Mwenezi High School won the inaugural tournament in 2011.
Shooter Sharon Bwanali was voted the tournament’s best player last year and went on to lead the Zimbabwe netball team to a gold medal in the Cossasa Games later that year in Namibia, and will once again spearhead Pamushana’s title quest tomorrow.
But in Mwenezi High, Pamushana know they have a strong opposition capable of derailing their chances of a third straight title. Mwenezi reached
the quarter-finals last year, and together with Chifamba and other traditional giants such as Mawabeni of Matabeleland North, who were last year’s semi-
finalists, they should be able to mount a strong challenge against Pamushana’s juggernaut. Highfield High 1 and Sikhulile High of Harare and Bulawayo provinces respectively, have been regulars at the national finals since 2011 and their experience could come very handy in this year’s edition.
NASH president Johnson Madhuku yesterday told NewsDay Sport that they have prepared well for the tournament.
“Everything is in order and we expect to have a good tournament. We have some newcomers at this year’s finals, schools that are coming from the rural areas which show that the competition in schools is growing. I should also applaud Tanganda Tea for the sponsorship which they have increased this year and what I can promise is that Nash will guard this relationship jealously. Tanganda are doing very well in nurturing talent, and the fruits are beginning to show with most of these students graduating into the national team,” said Madhuku.
He added, “I’m also appealing to the Zimbabwe National Association to be fair and transparent in handling the matches. What we don’t want to is to tarnish the image of the tournament and that of our sponsors. We want deserving schools to win their games and that’s the only way we would be able to select the best players for our Cossasa team.”
Pamushana (Defending Champions), Nyamhunga (Host), Mwenezi (Masvingo), Highfields 1 (Harare), Sikhulile (Bulawayo), Svingwe (Manicaland), Mhangura (Mashonaland West), Zimbiru (Mashonaland East), Mnene (Midlands), Mawabeni (Matabeleland South), Mosi-a-Tunya (Matabeleland North), Chifamba (Mashonaland Central)